Jodi Mardesich Smith takes us beyond the bridal boutiques.
What They Wore
by Jodi Mardesich Smith
As a freshman at Brigham Young University, I was an odd duck. I had no intentions of getting married anytime soon. But most other women seemed more interested in getting a Mrs. than an academic degree. Literally everyone on the floor in my dorm at Deseret Towers had plans for how their weddings would be, down to the color scheme for their bridesmaid dresses. I know, because as a fledgling enterprise reporter I walked around to every room and asked.
When I did plan my wedding, last year, part of me wanted a gorgeous Vera Wang gown, but I knew it wouldn’t fit my budget or, honestly, my style. Besides, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the Bridal Industrial Complex. According to a survey by TheKnot.com, the average price for a wedding in the United States is around $30,000, with $1,400 earmarked for the dress. Utahns are at the low end of the spending scale, at $17,000 —but still shell out about $1,000 for the gown.
Options beyond the bridal boutique abound for unconventional wedding attire. If you’re willing to spend the big bucks, consider hiring a local designer. You can also embellish a plain dress, or alter a fabulous find to look as if it were made for your body.
Salt Lake costume designer Jen McGrew’s corsets are renowned. She made a white corset and bustle for Kelli Baker’s 2007 Burning Man wedding.
Kelli, meanwhile, embellished her bra, petticoat, and her husband-to-be’s white Utilikilt with crystal rhinestones. DIY to the end, Kelli’s “bridesmaids” rode bikes across the playa wearing nothing but fuchsia tutus and sparkly pasties. “The best part,” recalls Kelli, “was buying the supplies and having the lady at the Jo-Ann cutting table ask me what I was making.”
My friend Maureen Rosenthal created her magnificent wedding dress out of a tote bag her sister-in-law Emilie crocheted from plarn—plastic yarn made from recycled shopping bags. Maureen cut off the bottom of the bag and attached long strips of plarn to fashion a train. Her sister Lynn sewed the bamboo fabric underdress with plarn ruffle trim. Nicole deVaney repurposed the bottom of the bag as a headdress decorated with crystals, feathers and more plarn strips. Maureen’s man, Tanner, wore chaps that she’d crocheted from brown plarn.
I wish I had been as creative as Kelli or Maureen. Originally, I had hoped to restore a vintage flapper dress from the 1920s for my wedding day. But I had worn it to too many festivals, and the tailor I took it to said the dress was beyond repair. I searched thrift stores for something interesting to modify, and looked at eBay and Etsy. My husband scored—he found a gorgeous suit, in perfect condition, at a local consignment store. After visiting a tailor, it fit perfectly.
I ultimately found my simple (long, ivory) halter dress online at Free People. It was elegant for the wedding day—and I could wear again without feeling as if I were traipsing around in bridal attire.
If it’s an offbeat wedding, leap at the opportunity to dress outside the bridal box. What makes you smile and feel fabulous? These days, a wedding dress can be just about anything you want. So, what’s your dream?
Jodi Mardesich Smith is a CATALYST contributor and wedding veteran.